Lonely for God

by Andy Wood on September 17, 2010

in Five LV Laws,LV Cycle,Principle of Abundance,Waiting

Thomasville, Alabama.  A long time ago.  I was driving from Jackson to Tuscaloosa and had stopped for gas at one of those places where they still pumped it for you.  Young man walks out and gets the pump going while I’m pretty much minding my own business.  I’m wearing jeans and tennis shoes, with some casual shirt.

He eyes me and asks, “You a minister?”

(I hated then and hate now looking like a preacher.)

“Yes,” I replied, surprised.  “How did you know?”

“You have this glow about ‘cha,” he said with a smile.

I was surprised again, and blessed.  This wasn’t a particularly glowing trip.  I was driving north to unload a car on the back end of a dumb purchase that had left us pretty beaten down financially.  It was a desperate move to get out of a stupid debt.

Glow?  I’d have to take that one by faith.  It felt more like I was panting.

As the deer pants for the water brooks,

So my soul pants for You, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;

When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1-2)

Ever feel like you were panting?  Like you couldn’t quite catch your breath as you went from one thing to another?  From one stressor to another?  From one disappointment to another?

I found myself in that situation a few years ago, and realized something important.  I wasn’t panting just for better feelings or circumstances.  I was panting for the Lord.  All my longings were longings for him.  And in my sense of urgency, in my running around, and in my letting others dictate my schedule, I had greatly neglected time with Him.

Spiritual Loneliness

All that spiritual and emotional panting was a soul’s declaration that God feels a million miles away.  Can you relate?

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;

When shall I come and appear before God?

My tears have been my food day and night,

While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me.

For I used to go along with the throng and  lead them in procession to the house of God,

With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival (Psalm 42:2-4).

Spiritual loneliness makes you thirsty.  It allows you to feel the weight of your own emotions and challenges your faith.  It reminds you of the times in the past when you walked with great joy in God’s blessing.

But make no mistake about it:  the real source of the thirst is not a desire for relief.  It’s a desire for God Himself.

A. W. Tozer says, “When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself.”

Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they had found Him the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking.

Why God Allows It

If it’s true that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us, then why would He allow us go pass through those thirsty seasons, those “dark nights of the soul” where He feels so distant?

Two reasons.  First, to remind us of our need for Him.  We, the adequate… we, the busy… we, the affluent… we, the smart or talented… we, the strong and healthy… we, the religious don’t… think… we… need… God.

As long as the focus is on what we have, it’s easy to lose sight of our need for the Lord.

Why are you in despair, O my soul?

And why have you become disturbed within me?

Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him

For the help of His presence (Psalm 42:5).

The second reason God allows spiritual loneliness is to lead us to build our hope in Him.

Where is your hope?  In the Lord?  How do you know it’s not in your health?  One way to find out is to take away your health, and see if you still have your hope.

How do you know it’s not in your job or career?  One way to find out is to take away your job or career, and see if you still have your hope.

How do you know it’s not in your friends?  One way to find out is to take away your friends, and see if you still have your hope.

How do you know it’s not in that pedestal others have you on?  One way to find out is to knock you off your pedestal and see if you still have your hope.

How do you know it’s not in your past success?  One way to find out is to take your success (whatever that looks like) away, and see if you still have your hope.

I think you get the point.  It’s easy to say our hope is in the Lord.  But sometimes you will never know it for sure until the Lord is the only thing you have left to hope in.

Dealing With Spiritual Loneliness

The psalmist provides a beautiful response to the ache of spiritual loneliness.

1.  Tell God exactly how you feel.

I will say to God my rock, “Why have You forgotten me?

Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Psalm 42:9)

Whatever the feeling – fear, despair, rejection, anger – God is big enough to take it, and wants you to bring it to Him, even if you’re hurling it at Him.  Get this:  there may be times you can break God’s heart, but you can never hurt his feelings.  Get honest.

2.  Remember who God is, and what He has done for you.

O my God, my soul is in despair within me;

Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan… (Psalm 42:6).

Take some time for perspective.  Remember.  Your past experience with the faithfulness of God has something to teach you today.

3.  Sing.

The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;

And His song will be with me in the night,

A prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:8)

Surround yourself with music, and if at all possible, make some of it yourself.  Something changes in the very atmosphere when there is a musical spirit of praise.  Do not underestimate the power of musical praise/worship to usher in the sense of God’s presence.

4.  Practice “soul talk.”

Twice here and once in the next psalm, the psalmist stops hollering at God long enough to talk back to himself.  To encourage himself.

Why are you in despair, O my soul?

And why have you become disturbed within me?

Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,

The help of my countenance and my God (Psalm 42:11).

It’s one thing to hear the faithfulness of God declared by others.  It’s one thing to see the faithfulness of God demonstrated in your circumstances.

It’s another thing entirely when you can declare the faithfulness of God to yourself in the midst of your despair and desperation.

I Saved the Best for Last

Can I show you something that can only be seen through New Covenant lenses?  This blew me away.

Twice in this psalm, a phrase like this appears:

“I shall yet praise Him for the help of His presence.”

“I shall yet praise Him, the help (or health) of my countenance, and my God.”

The Hebrew word for “help” is Yeshua.  As a proper name, it’s also the Hebrew name for Jesus.

And just in case all hell is breaking lose…

…or you’re panting as you’re running from place to place…

…or you’re feeling stupid because of a dumb financial choice…

…or you’re feeling like the Lord is a million miles away…

…I just wanted to remind you – Jesus is the helper, the savior, the health of your countenance.

So don’t be surprised if, on one of your worst days, somebody asks you why you have such a glow about you.  Jesus is still your glory, and the lifter of your head.

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